PEJ: Coverage of Trayvon Martin Case Varies "Greatly"

An extensive new analysis of the Trayvon Martin shooting shows that the coverage of the case on social media has "varied greatly" from the way it has been approached by blogs and the more mainstream cable TV and talk radio sectors, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ).

The PEJ study found that "on Twitter, the conversation has focused on sympathy for the slain teenager and expressions of outrage at the killing" while blogs emphasized "the role of race in the highly charged case" and the cable news and talk radio "focused on two politically oriented issues-gun control laws and the Florida Stand Your Ground statute" in coverage studied between March 17-28th.

The full report can be found here.

The PEJ analysis found that the largest category of coverage on Twitter -- accounting for 21% of the conversation -- focused on outrage at George Zimmerman, who shot the teen, and calls for justice. In contrast, gun control and the Florida legislation accounted for the largest share (17%) of the coverage on talk radio and race was the top topic among blogs, accounting for 15% of the coverage.

"In social media support for Trayvon and outrage at the killing far outweighed any sense that Zimmerman might have been justified in his actions," the PEJ survey concluded. "On cable and talk radio, suspicion of Trayvon Martin was virtually equal to doubts about George Zimmerman."

The study also noted that the shooting was the first story in 2012 to surpass coverage of the presidential election in mainstream media, with the Trayvon Martin shooting accounting for 19% of the newshole between March 19 and 27, followed by the presidential election (14%), the health care debate (11%), Afghanistan (7%) and the economy (6%).

Among the cable news nets, MSNBC devoted the most time to the story, where it accounted for 49% of the coverage during the time slots studied by PEJ, followed by CNN (40%) and Fox News (15%).

MSNBC also devoted the most attention to the gun control issue. In contrast, "questions about Trayvon Martin and the defense of Zimmerman garnered the most attention" on Fox News, the study noted.

The study also documents how coverage spiked after the release of the 911 tapes and provides a detailed breakdown of how different media covered different aspects of the case between blogs, twitter and the cable TV/talk radio sector.

Not surprisingly it found significant differences between liberal and conservative hosts on talk radio and cable news.

"The No. 1 storyline among liberal talkers was gun control and the Florida law followed by a discussion of the remark by Fox News' Geraldo Rivera blaming the hoodie for Trayvon Martin's death," PEJ noted. "Among conservative talkers, the top subject included questions about Trayvon and a defense of Zimmerman, followed by a discussion of the media's handling of the story."